Nun, 82, exposes homeland insecurity
By Judith Burkhardt
St. Ignatius Catholic Community
The main mission of the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons complex at Oak Ridge, Tenn., is to ensure the safety of this country.
One of the two business entities that provide security to the Y-12 complex is Bechtel Corporation, a favorite of former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Yet a month ago, in the early morning of July 28, Sister Megan Rice, a 82-year-old Roman Catholic nun, and two companions — Michael Walli, 63, and Greg Boertji-Obed, 57 — were able to enter the maximum security area of the complex (which covers approximately 50 square miles) and hoist banners, spray painting slogans and pour their blood on the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility.
Their action, a Plowshares action, echoing Isaiah’s exhortation to turn swords into plowshares, was called “Transform Now.”
All this was done without interruption by any security force in the complex, although in order to arrive in the maximum security area of the complex, the elderly peace activists had to cut through four fences.
As a consequence of “Transform Now,” the complex was closed down for approximately one week and a number of security personnel were removed from their jobs. It was, the authorities said, the most serious security breach in the history of Y-12.
Sister Megan, Mike and Greg were originally charged with criminal trespass, a misdemeanor, with a maximum fine of $100,000 and one year in jail. Subsequently, the government charged them with a felony for willfully and maliciously destroying or attempting to destroy a structure, with a fine of $250,000 and 10 years in jail. Sister Megan and Mike are released on bond and are living in the Catholic Worker House in Washington, D.C. Greg refused bond and is in jail in Knoxville, Tenn. Their next court date is in October.
So, here we have the largest nuclear weapons factory in the United States, whose buildings cannot be seen from the roads that lead to it and is surrounded by a toxic stream of water with signs saying it is poisoned and dangerous, hills and woods abounding. Yet, three non-violent elderly peace activists get through all of it and wind up in the maximum security area.
Why would anyone in their right mind want to prosecute them? Though it was not their intent to do so, they should be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for exposing the lack of security at this plant that has been producing genocidal nuclear weapons since the 1940s.
Sister Megan has been arrested more than 40 times. She has devoted her life to try and keep in the forefront of the public’s eye the obvious danger of nuclear weapons themselves, along with the toxicity of the materials used to produce them. She and her friends should be congratulated, not prosecuted.
If anyone is prosecuted, it should be the officers of Bechtel for aiding and abetting Homeland Insecurity and the government officials, Democrat or Republican, who have not closed down this Nuclear complex, which is producing such destructive weapons.
They all need to be reminded of the self-evident truths in the Declaration of Independence that: “We are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”
The Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance has been keeping vigil at the Y-12 facility every Sunday evening for over 20 years. Each year, on Aug. 6, the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, peace activists gather at the site and stand in witness to the bomb-making that occurs there. Peaceful civil disobedience frequently occurs and persons are arrested and jailed for their beliefs. Ordinarily, the civil disobedience occurs at the beginning of the road leading to the complex and is not, like the Plowshares action, on government property.